Achieving academic success is a challenge for many children; however, for many African American children, academic success is more than a challenge; it is an almost impossible feat. Anyone can look in the papers, or take a peek in the average classroom grade books and see the big disparity, or achievement gap that is evident between African American and Caucasian students’ grades, or levels of proficiency on academic measures. Although there are many reasons that have been offered to explain why this gap exists, many researchers are interested specifically in the role that teacher’s beliefs, attitudes, and teaching practices or styles play in enhancing or hindering academic performance among African American students.
Oates, (2003) examined the relationship between the ethnicity of the teacher and the ethnicity of the student to determine if dissimilarity in teachers and students races has an influence on teachers’ perceptions of students (Oates, 2003). He also looked at whether the relationship between teacher perceptions among students of the same race (i.e. African American teacher; African American student) would be consequential to performance. He utilized the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) of 1988, that focused on 24,559 eighth graders; however, after centering on the educational processes of students who had tenth(1990) and twelfth(1992) grade standardized test data and tenth grade teacher-perception data available, he had a sample size of 836 African American students; 670 with perception data from white teachers and 166 with perception data from African American teachers; and, 7094 white students with perception data from white teachers and 155 with perception data from African American teachers (Oates, 2003).
Oates (2003) found that teachers’ attitudes and perceptions do have a factor in the black/white performance gap. The difference in race of the teacher and student is primarily significant to the perceptions of white teachers about African American students and the academic performance of African American students (Oates, 2003). He also found that teachers’ perceptions were likely to be most influential in the context where they are most adverse. He ascertained that anti-black sentiment among white teachers (i.e. they are lazy) affirms the belief of the detrimental effects of racial conflict. This relationship remained even after controlling for demographic and confounding variables (such as academic engagement).
Oates (2003) noted that some major strengths of his research were that it was a longitudinal study and that the focus on standardized test scores eliminate the possibility of measure scores being manipulated to fit with teachers preconceptions; however some major limitations of the study were that it had a small sample size, causation cannot be established as many other mitigating factors could have been responsible for lower test scores; and because self-reporting measures were used the...